MassDOT looks to trash records

Agency has retained "massive" driver tolling records dating back to 1998

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

IF YOU USED an old Fastlane transponder on the Massachusetts Turnpike 18 years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation likely has a record of that trip.

MassDOT on Wednesday sought approval of a new records retention schedule as it plans to convert to all-electronic tolling Oct. 28, and plans to request authority to destroy records dating back to 1998, the first year that the transponders were used, said Steve Collins, MassDOT’s director of tolling.

“The previous administrations didn’t have a record-retention policy in place, so therefore those records continue to be maintained,” Collins told reporters after a meeting with the state’s Records Conservation Board.

If the request is approved, records would be destroyed up until the new schedule, which calls for the state to retain EZPassMA records for the length of the account plus one year.

Collins said the records are stored off-site and in addition to Fastlane and EZPass data, they include reports generated from cash collection, electronic tolling reports and old letters.

It is literally a generation’s worth of data on a tolled road system that carries well over 100,000 drivers per day the length of the state. On the Boston extension of I-90 alone, there are between 103,000 and 128,000 drivers per day, plus 70,000 on the Ted Williams Tunnel, according to a triennial inspection of the Metropolitan Highway System that relies on a 2010 study.

Collins confirmed the amount of data is massive. “That’s why we want to get rid of it,” he said.

As the state streamlines toll collection by replacing toll plazas and toll-takers with camera-festooned gantry structures straddling the highway, MassDOT officials will also seek approval to destroy old warehoused records.

The Records Conservation Board on Tuesday opted to approve MassDOT’s plans to retain speed data for 30 days. The electronic tolling system gauges the speed of passing cars to take accurate photos of license plates and predict when a vehicle will arrive at the next gantry, Collins said.

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has said the state has no plans to use the system to determine whether people are driving above the speed limit. Pollack also said MassDOT only releases data to authorities under a subpoena.

Collins said the MassDOT plan calls for photos of vehicles who do not participate in electronic tolling to be retained for seven years, while photos of EZPass drivers’ plates would be kept for three months.

Collins plans to confer with a representative from the state comptroller’s office about the retention of vendor-related electronic tolling contracts.